emergency preparedness

Ready For Not-Quite Everything: The Lady’s Emergency Preparedness

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I’ve been fairly obsessed with emergency preparedness lately. The way I see it Mother Nature has just cause to be pissed. But I’m a mom, too, and plan to take care of my own. You can’t prepare for everything…but you can be more prepared than most.

The Lady in the Black’s Emergency Preparedness

CAUTION: Before we launch into the details, I’d like to qualify that the journey to getting prepared is a very personal and emotional experience. At its very core is the realization that something bad might happen. It’s not the happy-go-lucky, positive attitude that operates during disaster and emergency preparedness. It’s the darker, what-if side that truly aids what needs to be done in this type of project.

Please know that it is far too easy to spiral into a dark place while you work on getting prepared for worst-case scenarios. As a person who struggles with depression and anxiety, I strongly suggest that you only tackle preparedness projects when you are in a position of emotional strength. Being prepared can set you sailing with an unprecedented sense of security–but you do have to weather some pretty nasty waters to get there. Know thyself. 

emergency preparedness
The Lady and Kid in the Black, a few years back

Background

I’m a single mom with split custody of a 9-year old daughter. She alternates every two weeks between her parents’ houses. (Ex-husband lives about 2 miles away. It’s about the same distance to her elementary school.) My current work gig is 25 miles away and I drive there at least 4 days a week. This all goes down in earthquake-ridden southern California. Oh, yeah….and fires. Oh, and floods, too. Oh, and social unrest on occasion.

Southern California: Good weather. Bad risk.

emergency preparedness
Northridge Earthquake, 1994

It occurred to me a couple of months ago that I was completely unprepared for any bad things in my life. I’ve only recently started financially planning for the future.

I strongly suspect that once your brain opens the door to the future on one aspect of your life, there is no closing it. Hence, the bridge between financial planning and emergency preparedness.

As such, my brain has been pre-occupied with all the necessary disaster preparedness and emergency planning that I needed to do. And as a single mom, the list is long.

The Scenarios

While it is not fun dreaming up all the ways your life (and that of your child’s) can get royally f’d up, it does instill a unusually morbid intellectual challenge.

You see, I have one of those problem-solving brains. Normally, I apply it to work assignments and more recently to my personal finances. Now my brain races with all the ways I can be prepared, both emotionally and tactically, for an emergency or disaster.

Here are the various scenarios I’ve addressed so far.

Earthquake

If “the big one” hits southern California (as it must eventually do), this place is going to be a cluster-fuck of chaos.

No. Seriously. Cluster-fuck of chaos might be an understatement.

emergency preparedness
Los Angeles riots, 1992

Sheltering In Place

Our evacuation routes in LA are, in fact, congested freeways riddled with earthquake-suseptible bridges and overpasses. Immediately evacuating Los Angeles county might not be possible, if at all. The need for sheltering in place while things calm down is far more likely.

I’ve stored up water, canned/dry food, personal items, candles, flashlights, pet care items, first aid items, etc. These are the basics that any preparedness list will tell you to gather. (If you haven’t visited Ready.gov, you should. )

However, I’ve gone a bit deeper and also acquired rolls of plastic sheeting and lots of duct tape. Why? Because a big earthquake will likely cause enough structural movement that windows will break. The sheeting can help close up gaping holes. Ready.gov also advises this for “contaminated air.” (Lord knows what that means!) I also purchased a 3-day supply of emergency rations. These are freeze-dried food items that don’t expire for 25 years. They only take hot water to prepare. (‘Cause I don’t know about you but I can’t imagine suddenly feeling like cooking in the event of a pseudo-apocalypse.)

Tech Ready

Oh, have you thought about how’d you charge your phone with no power? Well, I have. (Assuming cell towers remain operational.) The Ready.gov has this to say:

Smartphones have become a vital tool to receive emergency alerts and warnings, so it’s important to make sure you can keep them powered up in an emergency.

I have a portable charger in my purse and a lantern I purchased has a USB port to charge electronic devices. The lantern also has a solar panel in case my batteries crap out. (The one I purchased is pictured above.)

I’ve also signed up for three different emergency alert systems on my phone that will text me information in the event of a local emergency.

  1. Nixel Public Safety Alert
  2. FEMA 
  3. My city’s local ALERT system

In the Car

Of course, all this assumes my child and I are conveniently home when all this goes down. In the event I’m at work, I need a commuter emergency plan.

I have yet to figure it all out completely but I do have a 3-gallon reserve of water and a “bug out bag” in my car. The backpack has a change of clothes, sneakers, a first aid kit, sunblock, and a water bottle. If I have to, I’ll walk the 25 miles to get to my kid.

Wildfire, Floor, or Other Emergency Evacuation

As way of a history lesson, when I was 9, my family had a house fire. Fortunately, we were not home at the time but we lost 2 pets and everything we owned. For that reason, I’ve tended to store my most cherished sentimental items in briefcases or vintage suitcases. Why? Because in the event I have to get out of my house within minutes, I need to be able to grab and go.

Centralized, Portable Kit

In light of my personal history and in the event of a wildfire or flood, I’ve chosen to store most of my disaster items in a wheeled laundry cart in the closet by the front door. There is also an empty suitcase and duffle in there too to chuck items into (or not depending on available time.) I needed items on wheels because there is a two-flight climb to get to my carport.

The cat crate sits on top of the cart because, to me, life is most precious; my child, myself, and my cats (in that order.) I have also put a heavy-weight shopping bag in the bookshelf near my photo albums and could load those up in a matter of minutes. My passport, birth certificate, and other valuable papers are all in one manilla envelope in their secret hiding place ready to grab.

I also have a tent and 2 sleeping bags easily accessible. If I have to sleep in a park or the desert, I will. My main priority is leaving the chaos of crippled LA behind and seeking calmer, open land.

emergency preparedness
Los Angeles, Clusterf#ck Central

Evacuation Routes

Oh, remember that bug out bag in my car?

It also holds printed out maps of this local area, from close up surface streets to zoomed out highway maps out of the immediate area.

I’m not relying on Siri to get me out of LA. (As a note, I do need to purchase a more comprehensive map for my bag but print outs are a band-aid fix for now.) I also have a printed list of “safe houses” and associated contact information for at least a dozen family/friends across the country. They are listed from closest to furthest.

My thought is that having a route out-of-town, complete with friendly faces, will be quite the comfort if I’m in a “get the hell out of dodge” situation.

I have considered having an emergency stash of gasoline. I’d like to think if there was open road out of town that I could make it to Phoenix without having to stop (about 6 hours.) Assuming I have less than a full tank, I don’t want to have to stop anywhere, for my own safety.

emergency preparedness
Courtesy Conewago Valley School District

Something Bad At Home

Not every emergency has to be so dramatic.

Did you know that more than 18,000 Americans die every year from injuries that take place in the home? This makes it the second most common location for such fatalities.  – A Secure Life

Personal Injury

What if I had a health emergency while at home? What if a kitchen fire got out of hand?  Well, my first concern in any of those situations would be to get my child to safety.

Just tonight, I did two important things.

First, I placed two index cards on the frig for my daughter. One with important emergency numbers; 911, my ex-husband, and a local friend. The other card has our address written on it in case my kid needs to call someone to get help.

Home Fire

The second thing I did was pack a mini-bug-out bag for her and placed it near her bedroom window.

If she had to leave (via window or door), she’d have a jacket, water, flashlight, a few snacks, and a stuffed animal (for comfort) to take with her. However, the most important items inside the bag are index cards with the names and contact information for both of her parents and other trusted friends, both local and out-of-area. I also put a written note in there telling her not to be afraid and a small photo album. (That note, by the way, is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write.)

I also have a similar bag by my window but I definitely need to stock that one up a bit. I’ve also hidden a spare car key in case I need to bug out and can’t find my keys. (A near-certain probability with me.)

Home Invasion

For the unimaginable, a home invasion, I have to admit that I’ve considered purchasing a gun. I am on the fence about it but will be talking to some of my female friends who own guns to understand the process, risks, etc. If I do decide to acquire a firearm, I’ll be taking LOTS of lessons on how to safely store, own, and God-forbid, use one.

In the meantime, I do have a paracord monkey fist hanging by my front door and an extra IKEA table leg by my bed. Batters up, mother f#cker.

emergency preparedness
Courtesy Missouri Hospital Association

Continual Preparation

Once your brain starts down this prepping path, it’s becomes pretty obvious that you can’t adequately prepare for everything. In fact, since I’ve start this project, I find myself buying things for my kit(s) almost every time I’m out. I also know there is still A LOT I need to do.

Family Emergency Plan

The most imperative thing I have yet to do is to have a family meeting with my ex-husband and kid to discuss our family emergency plan. Years ago, I had printed out various “in case of” scenarios but that sheet hasn’t been updated in a long time. Worst yet, we haven’t reviewed it as a family.

Household Inventory

The other thing I need to do is to inventory my personal belongings and make copies of my various insurance documents (rental insurance, life insurance, etc.) I should send copies of those to my key emergency contacts for off-site safe keeping.

Financial Preparedness

I also need to pull some emergency cash for my bug-out bag. When the shit hits the fan, cash will be king and since I rarely have ANY cash on me, I want to make sure I’m prepared to wheel and deal my way out of town.

In the Event of My Death

The last, and probably most significant, thing that I have yet to do is prepare a will. It is FAR overdue.

However, I have been giving serious thought to my child’s future without me. My ex-husband and I waited until “later in life” to have our daughter. That means it is possible that she may be younger than others when her parents pass.

It is indeed a very, very sad thing for a mother to think about but my own mother passed when I was 17. I understand first-hand what a mess that can be on so many fronts. I will do ANYTHING in my power to make my passing easier for my daughter than what I experienced.

emergency preparedness
Courtesy BainbridgeWa.gov

Summary

Is The Lady ready for anything? No, of course not.

But as a single woman and a single mom, I feel it’s my duty to be as prepared to care for myself and my child in the most responsible way. That requires some uncomfortable “doomsday” scenario planning, proactive preparation, and some added expense.

I don’t think it’s necessary (or possible) to be ready for anything.

I do think you’ll have the advantage over most if you put a certain level of safeguards in place now.

emergency preparedness
Local “Ready” Event

Information is critical in all things; especially topics surrounding preparedness. I encourage you to read up on the subject and consider attending your community’s preparedness fair. (My daughter’s Girl Scout troop went recently and had a blast!)

In summary, The Lady in the Black might live in LA but she’s doing everything possible to make sure she doesn’t die here.

The Chain

As many of my fellow personal finance bloggers know, being prepared is important.

We talk of “balancing risk” and “insuring against loss.” We save for a rainy day and have emergency funds tucked away. This is one type of preparedness. However, in a life or death situation, you can’t drink your bank account and stocks and bonds won’t feed your kid.

My friend, Retirement Manifesto, stated:

“We’ve decided as a blogging community to build this chain of blogging articles on the importance of being prepared.

Please consider reading this great articles:

Let me know what things I’m missing! How is your emergency preparedness coming along? Any favorite go-to resources to share? 

 

 

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9 comments

  1. This is a great rundown, Lady. I’ll join the chain when I post my own (November?).

    I know it can be difficult to think about these things, but you’ve done a great job. Better than a lot of people, I’d say. So many people (including me!) focus on just the survival parts of the emergency kits – they leave out the emotional and psychological aspects. I love that you have notes for your kiddo and the stuffed animal. God forbid anything should happen, but if it does those will be important. Good job.

  2. Thanks for joining in the chain, LIB, This is such an important cause to help our readers with – you can never be truly prepared for an emergency, but it sounds like you’ve done a great job

    1. Hey, how you holding up? I’ve been thinking about you a lot. I’ve read your post and am impressed you and your family made it out safely! (I liked your Terminator reference, too. That’s my scifi geek side showing.) Your story also has me remembering what it was like to be 9 and lose everything in a house fire a week before Christmas. I imagine the emotional impact on an adult is far worse. Yes, my two biggest concerns for me in LA are the evacuation routes and the inevitable looting/violence. I tend to remain fairly calm in a crisis but there is so much outside of my control. Thanks for commenting and I wish you and your family the best fresh start possible. If you need a place to crash in southern California, contact me. The Kid in the Black and I love houseguests!

  3. Please consider putting passport etc in a fireproof box in a safe place.
    In 2013 I wasn’t home and there was a fire in my apartment building. The idea of ‘oh I’ll just grab them from my bedside table if something bad happens’ becomes moot when you can’t get into your house / apartment for 2 days. In the end there was only water damage to my unit, but I didn’t know.

    1. Great thinking. Actually, I’ve decided to keep those types of valuables in a safe deposit box. I used to do that but got lazy after I moved!

  4. I forgot to talk about my emergency medical kit in detail so I’m glad you did here! And you’re so right that going down this path makes it hard to forget that you can’t always be totally prepared for everything. But it’s worth making the effort to get as prepared as we can be, it can mean the difference between making it through an emergency, or not. And also, awesome reminder about the printed maps. I’m adding printed maps to our friends and family evacuation info sheet, but fuller maps to get out of the region are part of the plans too.

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